Griner was sentenced to hard labour in a Russian colony for having a vape pen containing cannabis oil
Russia released Brittney Griner on Thursday as part of a dramatic high-level prisoner swap that saw the United States free notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout but failed to secure another release. American Paul Whelan has been imprisoned for almost four years.
Anthony Blinken, U.S Secretary of State, said:
“This morning, I joined President Biden, Vice President Harris, National Security Advisor Sullivan, and Cherelle Griner in the Oval Office, as Cherelle spoke to her wife Brittney, who is now on her way back to the United States and to her wife’s loving embrace. I am grateful to the State Department team and to our colleagues across the government who worked tirelessly to secure her release. I especially commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, who is accompanying Brittney back to the United States, as well as his entire team. We also extend deep appreciation to our many partners who helped achieve this outcome, including our Emirati friends, who assisted in the transfer today.
While we celebrate Brittney’s release, Paul Whelan and his family continue to suffer needlessly. Despite our ceaseless efforts, the Russian Government has not yet been willing to bring a long overdue end to his wrongful detention. I wholeheartedly wish we could have brought Paul home today on the same plane with Brittney. Nevertheless, we will not relent in our efforts to bring Paul and all other U.S. nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad home to their loved ones where they belong.
Phoenix Mercury center and W.N.B.A. all-star Brittney Griner has been released from Russia’s prison colony and is in U.S. custody following the prisoner swap confirmed by the Biden administration Thursday morning. President Biden did not elaborate on specifics about W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner’s release. Still, it was reported that she was part of the one-for-one prisoner swap with Viktor Bout, the arms dealer sentenced to 25 years in 2012 on various charges related to trafficking weapons and conspiracy to kill Americans.
Griner has been detained since February when she was arrested on drug-smuggling charges at a Moscow Sheremetyevo airport. Brittney Griner was found guilty on August 4, 2022, and sentenced to nine years in prison after police said they found vape pens containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Freeing Griner has been a priority of U.S. President Joe Biden since she was detained this March. After the recent resolution of Brittney Griner’s criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony, President Biden’s authorization to release infamous gun trafficker Victor Bout nicknamed the Merchant of Death, underscored the increasing pressure on the White House to get her home.
Griner’s release is a big win for the Biden administration, the Griner family, W.N.B.A. players, and the L.G.B.T.Q. Community. Griner’s choice to play in the Russian professional women’s basketball league during the W.N.B.A.’s offseason will no doubt end. It is very highly unlikely Griner will ever set foot on Russian soil for territories controlled by the Kremlin for the rest of her life.
Image source, Biden’s Twitter feed